How Money Makes You Smarter
A recent article written by Ron Unz on the associations between economic wealth, race, and IQ bring to mind the catastrophic results of opening Pandora’s box. Intelligence has always been a topic subject to debate, and Unz’s summary of findings in IQ and the Wealth of Nations, published in 2001 by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, does not offer unification to the theoretical musings of the experts.
In their publication, Lynn and Vanhanen detail the trends in ethnic and racial IQ relating to the economic development of countries.
They examine statistical findings from primarily developed European nations and compare the economic wealth of the country to the IQ of the citizens. Unz relates the findings in his The American Conservative as if they have staggering implications relating to IQ and the wealth of nations.
When the lowest IQ rates are charted, the differences in factors are significant:
When examined, it is clear that there is an enormous discrepancy in the variables presented for the countries. Decade, age of subjects, whether the subjects are adults or children, and sample size vary dramatically in the statistics.
Lynn and Vanahan examine IQ scores that within the lowest distribution span 6 decades. The researchers therefore make adjustments to account for what has been called the Flynn effect.
Dr. James R. Flynn of the University of Otago, New Zealand, was the first to recognize that there is a consistent and increasing trend in IQ scores over time. This principle centers on the fact that score distributions are based on a standard bell shaped curve when individual test takers are normed against a population of peers.
The score for a population’s average number of correct answers is set at 100. Over time, test takers across the board have consistently answered more questions correctly than in the past. Therefore, the number of correct answers needed to score an average 100 on an IQ test given in 1900 is significantly fewer than the number of correct answers necessary to score the same average 100 in 2000.
With this fluidity of intelligence, can an assessment be made that spans decades of not only IQ scores, but also the relative wealth of nations, foregoing other social and developmental factors?
When the scores reported by Lynn and Vanahan are examined, some association between overall economic success of a country and IQ test performance is apparent. By and large, the data trends show that economically successful countries have higher IQ performance.
Rural populations, whether in southern Italy or Idaho, show a lower overall IQ average than their urban contemporaries.
This is a chicken and the egg paradigm. It can be argued that a country populated by people of high intelligence will achieve a higher level of economic success because it’s human resources will propel it forward in economically sound developments.
Or, it can be argued that the resources available to economically successful countries will naturally give them an edge in educational preparation of their youth and intellectual development throughout the lifespan.
What the data does not support are previously generated racial theories for IQ distribution. If anything, the similarities between walks of life, rather than race, support trend differentiation across the globe. Rural populations, whether in southern Italy or Idaho, show a lower overall IQ average than their urban contemporaries.
The rural way of life has been traditionally less focused on intellectual pursuit. Rural survival does not depend on an extensive descriptive language structure or ability to problem solve in relation to puzzles. Understanding how to facilitate the birth of a calf or growth of crops is not measured by our standardized IQ tests.
Not surprisingly, IQ test performance for those raised rurally across the globe is lower than those raised with access to the cultural resources and libraries of the cities.
Consider the resources available to economically sound, developed countries. Advanced educational resources, nutrition for healthy prenatal and infant brain development, research funding, and modernized technologies are accessible through public sources for even the least well off citizens.
Less economically sound countries are unable to distribute their resources in ways that can benefit the intellectual development of their masses. Whether the economic success of a country is the chicken and the population IQ is the egg, or vice versa, the reality is, resources, whether they are brain, money, energy, food, medical, or technology based and powered, are critical to advancement.
And as our society advances in a positive direction, so to can our people.
So where does that leave us in terms of development of intellect and wealth in our microcosmic worlds? Is the expense for the extra attention from educational tutors like Kaplan, Sylvan, or Mathnasium critical to the financial success of our families’ future generations?
Or would it be more prudent to save our money now so that our future generations can get a leg up as financially secure individuals who can educate further in the future. Are we doomed to be stupid due to the economic hardship that is being faced globally?
Perhaps it is impossible to determine our intellectual fates based on our wallets. Regardless of the amount of our paycheck, one thing is readily apparent. The world is shrinking and in most developed countries today, individuals have access to intellectual resources at an unprecedented rate.
We can take advantage of the increasingly accessible knowledge bases of the brightest within our society in almost every field. It is no longer the score on that IQ test or the money in that bank account that defines our parameters; it is the drive and determination to seek out the resources available, and use them for all they are worth.
Image by Abode of Chaos